W. BARNES HAUPTFUHRER Managing director First Union Corp., Charlotte, N.C.

Charlotte, N.C., is a long way from Wall Street, and that's just fine with W. Barnes Hauptfuhrer.

The ex-Princeton basketball star spent seven years working in mergers and acquitions at Kidder, Peabody & Co. in New York before opting for a quieter life as a commercial banker.

So far, it's been anything but quiet.

Mr. Hauptfuhrer, 37, eased into his new career by moving to Charlotte, his wife's home town, in 1987, while still working for Kidder.

He told his bosses that he could work anywhere as long as he was near an airport.

A year later, Edward E. Crutchfield Jr., chairman of First Union Corp., gave Mr. Hauptfuhrer the challenge he had been looking for: forming an investment banking boutique, in this case an arm of First Union.

For starters, Mr. Hauptfuhrer recruited three partners from Kidder with the lure of a simpler life-style and a profitable future.

At Kidder, Mr. Hauptfuhrer was an agent for big companies seeking to buy small ones or looking for capital.

Now, he is a principal investor and advisor, using the bank's capital. His group spends part of its time advising midsize corporations on strategy and financing.

In three years, they have invested $70 million for the bank. The results appear to be good. The group realized $10 million from the sale of securities in companies that First Union invested in that subsequently went public. It has at least an additional $60 million in unrealized gains on its investments, Mr. Hauptfuhrer says.

All told, the group has given the banking company a 50% annual rate of return.

Nearly half the gains came in the last quarter of 1991, as First Union cashed in on investments in CompUSA and World Acceptance Corp., companies that Mr. Hauptfuhrer's group took public.

It's record that Mr. Crutchfield likes. In fact, Mr. Hauptfuhrer claims that he sometimes has to rein in the chairman, who wants the group to keep growing rapidly.

"We like being a small fish," Mr. Hauptfuhrer says, recalling the investment banking excesses of the 1980s. "We are not trying to break size records."

Mr. Hauptfuhrer admits, however, that his yen for deal-making distinguishes him from First Union's more typical lenders. The culture clash between the investment bankers and the lenders hasn't escalated into war, he says, because he hired partners with patience.

The investment boutique, in his eyes, fits right into the bank's strategy. "We want to be an extension of the commercial bank," he explains, "but we want to go further out on the risk curve - and equally far on the return curve."

Despite his go-go talk, Mr. Hauptfuhrer says he never forgets that he spends less time on the road than his Wall Street counterparts - and more time with his family.

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